Torch Song Trilogy is Harvey Fierstein’s groundbreaking portrait of a gay man’s struggle for respect and love in a homophobic world. The play, comprising three one acts titled “International Stud,” “Fugue in a Nursery,” and “Widows and Children First,” chronicles the journey of the central character, Arnold Becker, from a life of transitory sexual encounters with strangers in the back rooms of New York’s gay bars to his insistence on relationships based on commitment, respect, and love.
In the first play, “International Stud,” Arnold meets Ed Reiss in a gay bar. For Arnold, the encounter offers the possibility of an honest relationship that will put an end to his loneliness. Ed, however, sees his meeting with Arnold as simply a one-night stand and returns to his developing relationship with Laurel. He describes himself as bisexual but chooses to hide his gayness for fear of public opinion. Ed attempts to terminate the relationship but finds himself returning to Arnold and is even able to acknowledge his love for Arnold. Arnold, however, cannot accept an undercover and uncommitted relationship and finally walks away.
“International Stud” presents the reader with two characters who are at different places regarding their understanding of themselves. Arnold is comfortable with himself as a gay man and is in search of a lover who is also a friend. Ed, however, is in denial as to his sexuality and, therefore, incapable of giving himself to anyone as either friend or lover.
“Fugue in a Nursery” takes place one year after...
(The entire section is 656 words.)